Eating plant-based has countless amazing benefits for your health. With so many foods in the plant-based realm, it can be hard to zoom in on the absolute best picks to help you be your healthiest self. Hint: That vegan ice cream pint and frozen french fries don’t fit the bill. But in all seriousness, though, with so many delicious options to choose from, what are the best foods to incorporate into your daily diet if you’re looking to promote optimal health?

Below, nutritionists and doctors weigh in on five plant-based picks they say you should every day to do just that.

1. Leafy greens

“While the diversity of foods is important in a well planned, plant-based or plant-predominant diet, there are a handful of foods that I recommend my patients emphasize in order to optimize their heart health,” offers Dr. Nicole Harkin, MD, cardiologist, and founder of Whole Heart Cardiology. “Dark leafy greens have been consistently demonstrated to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease (among other chronic diseases like diabetes) when consumed daily. The cardioprotective benefits are thought to be due to decreased blood pressure and arterial stiffness from the production of nitric oxide as well as the abundance of carotenoids and antioxidants.”

I’ll take that as my cue to load up on the spinach in a veggie stir-fry or with a Just Salad wrap for dinner tonight. Who’s with me?

2. Avocados

Good news for guac enthusiasts: “Avocados are full of nutrients and healthy fats. One-half of avocado supplies 4.6 grams of fiber to help you feel full longer, 345 mg of potassium and 5.5 mg of sodium for proper nerve and muscle function, 19.5 mg of magnesium for stress relief and to aid in sleeping,” says Leann Poston, MD, of BeWell Medical Clinic, adding that they also contain vitamins A, C, B-6, and K, along with healthy fats, which helps support heart health

For more on avocados, check out “Eat an Avocado a Day to Lose Weight and Burn Fat. It’s Nature’s Keto.”

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3. Garlic

Hey, we never said these were the foods you should eat right before a first date. It’s time to befriend this pungent bulb as a regular in your healthy eating Greatest Hits list: “Garlic has been used medicinally for centuries. Not only can it add a delicious flavor to your plant-based meals, but it offers a wide range of health benefits from its antibacterial and antifungal properties to its role in fighting cancer,” says Erin Kenney, MS, RD, LDN, HCP. “One study found a 30 percent reduction in the risk for colon cancer [with regular consumption of garlic cloves],” she says, noting that if you’d like to maximize the benefits of your freshly minced garlic, let it for ten minutes after dicing it before cooking.

So follow Kenney’s advice and add fresh garlic to guac, salad dressings, pesto, and salsas for an easy flavor — and health — boost.

4. Berries

“Berries and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables (such as red cabbage and eggplant) contain a type of antioxidant called anthocyanins,” says Harkin. “Not only are they very anti-inflammatory, they have also been found to improve the function of our blood vessels and improve insulin resistance. The benefits have been found in those who consume at least 3servings a week,” she continues, citing this study.

Coupled with a whole-food, plant-based diet, eat berries daily — whether slipping frozen strawberries and blueberries into a smoothie or topping a salad with a handful of fresh blackberries — and your body will be seriously grateful.

5. Dark chocolate

As if we needed another reason to load up on decadent dark chocolate, with its nuanced flavors and the energizing buzz it delivers.

Well, here goes: “One study found that people who consumed chocolate more than five times per week had a 57% lower risk of heart disease,” says Kenney, who recommends selecting dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa or higher to achieve the maximum benefits.

For more on The Perks of Being a Chocolate Addict (our future memoir’s title), check out the article “For Memory, Mood and Immunity, Eat More Cacao, Found in Dark Chocolate”.

Share with us: What are some of your go-to foods you eat every day for your health? Got any new ones you’re hoping to add to your routine this year?